I know I have heard people say “they are great if you want a spreadsheet put together but involved tasks just don’t work”. I know that many American's have felt this way in the growing world of outsourcing, but I assure you the frustration for those in India has been equal and there IS a solution.
Now I know there are a lot of other countries that work can be outsourced to but India is one of the primary countries that we rely on for amazing outsourcing workers so I am focusing on them in my blog today.
First I would like to mention that the reason I am so passionate about this topic is because I not only worked with a lot of coworkers in India while I worked at a Big 4, I also managed a research team of about 8 individuals based in India while working for a Tax Firm. During my time there I proposed a growth plan for the use of services and I acted as the liaison for communication between those U.S. based and those in India.
One of the number one issues I discovered in my work experience is that American's expect Indian's to be American and understand our cultural communication. But why would they have to be American when they live and work in India? No more than you need to be Indian because you work with people in India. This was a major problem because it is where communication breakdown always occurred, when wrong assumptions are made.
So I believe the best approach is to first understand some of the cultural differences between Indian's and American's and how to best close those gaps. At the end of this blog I will offer you a free project request form that you can utilize when you work with individuals in India and I believe if you use the content I provide today in this blog along with that form you will have greater success in your projects.
So let's first cover some of the cultural norms that those in India are accustomed to and how to translate these to the American mindset so that the person you are working with understands what you are requesting. Below are eight cultural norms for Indian’s and then an explanation of how you can adapt your interactions to close the cultural communication gap:
Tip #1 For those in India, it is appropriate to wait until you know someone before you begin to speak to them at length, or to confide in them. This is in direct contrast to American’s, who talk in order to get to know one another. So do not expect the person you just met in India to suddenly be very communicative off the bat. Give them time to get to know you.
Tip #2 For those in India, it is not appropriate to express strong emotions, either verbally or non-verbally, in public or with people whom you don’t know very well. So if you tick someone off they are probably not going to go off on you in public, so do not assume someone from India will tell you if they are mad at you.
Tip #3 It is not appropriate to ask questions in a direct manner, expecting an immediate response, from people whom you don’t know very well or for whom you should be showing respect. Direct questions force the person to answer immediately and to frame the response in a particular way. This infringes upon the right of the individual to decide when and how a response will be made, if at all. Therefore, do not put someone you work with in India on the spot and do not ask direct questions expecting an immediate response. If you want a direct question answered during a meeting it is best to first write it in an email and give them time to formulate a response later during your meeting together. There is one exception to this rule, if you have good news it is always appropriate to have a direction discussion about it.
Tip #4 It is inappropriate to always be the first person to talk, and then to talk only about what you are interested in. It is respectful to let everyone have a chance to speak and to control the topic as well. Thinking out one’s thoughts carefully before speaking is valued, rather than an immediate response to what has been said. For this reason, if you have an agenda you want covered it is best to send that in advance along with any questions you may want to ask. Then give each person the opportunity to speak, rather than only giving short notice and expecting an immediate response. Providing this clear objective and the specific questions you may have, will save time.
Tip #5 It is not appropriate to directly say that someone is wrong, solutions usually filter from top downwards, but assertion of ideas is acceptable within a certain parameter. In general it is expected that there are strong managers but weaker staff; decisions are the sole responsibility of the person in charge. No one should be directly told what to do. Therefore, indirect, general answers are considered appropriate in many cases because listeners can draw their own conclusions from them and make their own decisions. This is very important to understand, because if you then hired someone and you want their actual opinion, if you want them to analyze it and tell you if something in their opinion is wrong you will need to specifically ask for it. This may be uncomfortable for them but explain that it is not being disrespectful in this case because you need their opinion. You may even state “if you were the manager what you think?” I find this is one of the biggest issues American’s have when submitting a project they want an opinion back on. They do not realize that this has to be addressed up front, explained and requested. If it is not, then you will only get the bare minimum back, you will not get a leadership type response.
Tip #6 In Indian conversations, it is not the person who speaks first who controls the topic. This is because an immediate response to what someone has said is not always expected, but may be delayed. The respondent therefore has control over the topic by choosing when to speak and what to say. So if you think that because as an American you are leading a meeting by starting it, you can be sure that is not how those in India see it. If you want to be the one leading you may want to request their questions first, then lead which direction the discussion will go.
Tip # 7 It is appropriate for a speaker, particularly in a formal situation, to verbally signal that he or she has finished speaking. Therefore, if you are in a meeting and someone you are working with is speaking, let them tell you when they are finished. Simply ceasing to speak does not always mean that they have finished. It can also mean that they are considering what to say next, emphasizing points already raised, or is giving the content of the conversation the pause it deserves.
Tip #8 It is appropriate for everyone to get a chance to speak if they so wish, and to take as much time as they need, before a subject is brought to a conclusion. This is important because most will take their time to cover all of the details they deem necessary and in an American’s mindset you might be thinking “just get to the point”. It is important that you provide a courtesy of patience and allow them to cover all of the details. In fact, to those in India, it is very rude to interrupt or to speak before someone has signaled that she or he has finished speaking.
So in summary what does this all mean? It means that if you outsource to workers in India you need a process in place that will allow you to get the best results that will allow you to break through some of the cultural communication breakdown. And you need to breakthrough the number one barrier which is the fact that American’s tend to communicate in generalities and Indian’s tend to fill in the blanks for themselves, but American’s are way too vague and this results in work not being completed or done incorrectly.
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